August 23, 2005

Government denies plans to attack Kalahari people

The government of Botswana has denied allegations that it is launching a 'massive crackdown' on the Bushmen of the central Kalahari. Government spokesman Jeff Ramsay dismissed claims by rights group Survival International (SI) that the administration was attempting to blockade the ancestral lands of the Bushmen. SI claimed in a statement that, despite the resumption of a three-year court case against the government for evicting Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR), the authorities were planning to put guards around the CKGR to "stop Bushmen going in". Legal representatives and NGOs were also allegedly being denied access to the remaining Bushmen in the CKGR. "The wildlife department has barred the Bushmen's lawyers from entering the reserve to consult with their clients, even though the high court specifically asked them to do so," the rights group said. SI also claimed that "more Bushmen have been arrested for hunting to feed their families" in the park. Ramsay dismissed the allegations, saying there was "no crackdown", and that access to the CKGR was being managed "in the usual" manner. "They [SI] are referring specifically to something to do with the court case, and it was pointed out to them in court that the people they claim to be their clients are not in the CKGR, they are in New Xade [resettlement area outside the park]," Ramsay noted. This was a matter of court record, he added.
With regard to the arrest of Bushmen for hunting in the CKGR, Ramsay said: "We're just not going to allow poaching in game parks by people riding horses and using guns. If you want to hunt in the game park, then you have to use traditional methods - the bottom line is that hunting by non-traditional means in the game park is not allowed." SI charged that the Bushmen were facing "the most serious assault" on their rights "since their eviction in 2002". (IRIN)

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